13 December 2023, Israel: The ICL Group partners the highly promising AI-powered startup Agrematch.
Artificial Intelligence – AI – is revolutionizing how we do business across every sector and is transforming our day-to-day lives in the process. Some of the most exciting possibilities of new AI technology are in the vital AgriTech sector. AI applications in AgriTech are enabling a great leap forward and may allow to provide food security to the entire planet within a generation. ICL is focused on developing AI in agriculture and is actively backing the most talented new AgriTech innovators.
The Importance of Artificial Intelligence in the Agri-Food Sector
The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs predicts that 68% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050. At a conservative estimate, at least 6 billion people will depend on an extended supply chain to meet their daily food consumption requirements. The stability of our global society, and the future of countless people, depends on our ability to produce affordable, nutrient-dense food – and to process and distribute it effectively.
Of all industries, agriculture is arguably the most vital – and the most fragile one. Farming is uniquely vulnerable to a range of pressures including climate change, pests and predation, diseases, shortages of fertilizers, and irrigation problems, many of which are external factors beyond the control of farmers and agronomists.
The uncertainties of climate change, and increasingly disruptive extreme weather events, are exacerbating the traditional challenges to food production. If farmers are to reliably feed a human population that recently topped 8 billion, and make a profit in the process, they need access to the latest technologies. AI agriculture startups can potentially deliver the tools that farmers and agronomists need to successfully adapt to a changing environment.
Artificial intelligence in the Agri-food industry is already making an impact on research and development. Among other breakthroughs, scientists are now able to reveal and predict the molecular basis of plant traits behavior or identify new pesticides with predictive AI.
The initial performance of AI applications in AgriTech suggests that AI is set to become a game-changing tool across the entire spectrum of agrifood-related sectors, from laboratory-based AgriTech research to crop growth, food production anddistribution. ICL was quick to see the exciting potential of artificial intelligence and is proactive in building partnerships and investing in AI AgTech startups like Agrematch.
ICL Group & Agrematch: A Strategic Partnership
ICL Group is a renowned specialty minerals producer and supplier, and also a leading manufacturer of sustainable next gen fertilizers. The company has more than 12,500 employees located at its plants and research centers around the world and commits significant resources to innovation at every level. This commitment to RD&I extends to the development of AI applications in AgriTech. One of the ways ICL is fostering the development of AI applications is through investments in AI AgTech startups via its Food and AgriTech accelerator Planet Startup Hub.
ICL Growing Solutions, the agriculture division of ICL, is collaborating with Agrematch, one of the world’s most innovative AI agriculture startups, in a new strategic partnership. Agrematch was founded in 2017 and is located in Rehovot, Israel, close to the prestigious Weizmann Institute and ICL’s own research facilities.
The shared goal of the partnership is to harness artificial intelligence to discover crop nutrition solutions that can impact crop yields and plant health at every level. The combined resources, scientific and commercial knowledge, and research capabilities of ICL and Agrematch can significantly accelerate innovation in the field of plant nutrition
AI4AI: A Revolutionary Platform for AI in Agriculture
At the heart of Agrematch’s drive to discover active ingredients for plant nutrition is its revolutionary proprietary platform AI4AI – Artificial Intelligence for Active Ingredients. The AI4AI platform meets a critical need for affordable innovation in a field that is operating well below its true potential.
Currently, companies are challenged by the high costs of new product development and unfavorable time-to-market realities, as well as complex regulatory requirements. AI4AI has the potential to slash costs, streamline processes, and enable a new generation of vital crop nutrient products.
Eyal Ben-Chanoch, CEO of Agrematch offers some valuable insights into the AI4AI platform’s breakthrough capabilities.
“We are excited to partner with ICL and explore new solutions for plant nutrition. Using data science, and especially AI, has helped us to dramatically alter the discovery process, by eliminating both its sequential nature and the barriers that make the classical high-throughput screening methods costly, risky, and time-consuming. Our AI4AI platform was designed and built to discover new functional compounds that meet defined specifications.”
The Critical Enabling Role of AI in Compound Discovery
The global pharmaceutical sector has certain parallels with the AgriTech sector. Both rely on R&D to discover functional compounds that can be harnessed to create new products. Like their counterparts in the AgriTech sector, pharmaceutical R&D faces the challenges of conducting groundbreaking research in a landscape defined by budgetary restraints, obsolete systems and processes, and ever-changing regulatory requirements.
AI is transforming research and product design within the pharmaceutical sector and provides a proven model for the AgriTech sector to emulate. The results of AI innovation in pharma are encouraging. According to a 2022 report by Insider Intelligence:
- Pharmaceutical companies have reduced discovery costs by 70% by utilizing AI.
- A candidate compound trial with a typical seven-year timeline could be shortened by an average of 2 years.
Hadar Sutovsky, VP of External Innovation and General Manager of ICL Planet Startup Hub anticipates similar improvements in the compound discovery process across ICL’s own agricultural development ecosystem.
“ICL’s partnership with Agrematch brings the rapidly evolving application of AI into ICL’s agricultural development ecosystem. Agrematch’s AI4AI prediction platform has the potential to streamline our compound discovery process, reduce the time and costs involved, and lead to the development of more effective and efficient crop solutions.”
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